'Our collective mental health is deteriorating', claims MHF study

The NHS has revealed that one in three sick notes are for mental health issues. What should employers be doing about it?

In March 2017, the MHF commissioned a study looking into positive and negative mental health of 2,290 people.

They concluded that current levels of mental health are 'disturbingly low', with a massive 65% of respondents claiming to have suffered or are suffering with a mental health issue.

Only 13% were claimed to be living with 'good' mental health.

In its final report, the MHF wrote: "The barometer of success of any nation is the health and wellbeing of its people. We have a long way to go before we can say that we are a thriving nation. Although we have made great strides in the health of our bodies and our life expectancy, we now need to achieve the same for the good health of our minds."

The report added: "The survey suggests that our collective mental health is deteriorating. Overall most of us report experiencing a mental health problem in our lifetime. However, young adults report this at a higher level, despite having had fewer years in their lives to experience this. While there may be an element which reflects a greater ease at acknowledging a mental health problem, nevertheless this suggests a real and emerging problem. It is possible that it is linked to greater insecurities in life expectations for work, relationships and homes. The reasons and solutions warrant investigation."

More recently the NHS has warned that one in three sick notes cite a mental health issue. This means mental health is ahead of musculoskeletal disorders as the most common reason to take time off work.

The study looked at 12 million sick notes and found a disturbing rise in mental health issues.

Compared with the year 2014-2015, the last year has seen a 14% rise in notes citing stress and anxiety.

What do the experts say?

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has described these findings as 'alarming'. They claim more needs to be done to help people suffering from a mental health issue get back to work.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said: "These figures explain why the NHS is now putting mental health front and centre, in what was recently independently described as 'the world's most ambitious effort to treat depression, anxiety and other common mental illnesses'."

The Mental Health Foundation has outlined five steps that authorities should be taking in the UK:

  • A National Thriving Mental Health Programme - to spread public understanding about how to look after our mental health and to build community resilience.
  • A Royal Commission - to investigate effective ways to prevent poor mental health and to develop good mental health, and highlighting opportunities to reduce risks.
  • A Mentally Thriving Nation Report each year to track progress, emerging issues and actions required.
  • A ‘100% Health’ Check to help people to manage their mental health and reduce their risks as well as identifying where they need professional mental health support.
  • Fair Funding for Mental Health Research, commensurate with the scale of mental health problems in our society.

For employers, understanding and good mental health training is key. Our e-learning stress awareness course FeelRite offers an excellent introduction to identifying and dealing with stress in the workplace. Awareness and acceptance goes a long way to managing mental health issues at work.

You can find out more about the course on the FeelRite webpage, or go right ahead and sign up to a free trial.